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Building Leadership Skills: Problem-Solving and Decision-Making. An Infopeople Workshop Presented by Joan Frye Williams Not All Decisions Require Equal Attention. Decision Insurance. Define the problem Gather additional data Lay it all out Identify your options

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Building Leadership Skills: Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

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Building Leadership Skills:Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

An Infopeople Workshop

Presented by Joan Frye Williams

Not All Decisions Require Equal Attention

Decision Insurance

  • Define the problem

  • Gather additional data

  • Lay it all out

  • Identify your options

  • Evaluate your options

  • Make your decision

  • Move forward

Step #1:Define the Problem

  • What?

  • Where?

  • How?

  • When?

  • With whom?

  • Why?

For a Complex Problem

  • Break it down

  • Verify with others

  • Prioritize

Describe the Desired Outcome(s)

Define the solved state:

Here’s what should be happening…

Identify Specific, Measurable Goals

What are we trying to

  • Achieve?

  • Preserve?

  • Avoid?

  • Eliminate?

Link Back to the Big Picture

Make sure your desired outcomes align clearly with the library’s mission and strategic plan

Reality Check:Decision Politics

  • Who are the stakeholders in this situation?

  • What will they need to get out of any decision?

  • How and when should they participate in finding a solution?

Step #2:Gather Additional Data

  • Broad

  • Objective

  • Verifiable

  • Relevant


  • Hearsay/rumor

  • Opinion

  • Wishful thinking

  • Labeling the problem

  • Blaming/scapegoating

  • Vivid but minor evidence

Look Outside the Library as Well as In

Don’t Overlook

  • Your own beliefs and biases

  • Your own (possible) role in the situation

How Much Information Is Enough?

Just Be Sure YouCover the Bases

  • Bouncing around is natural

  • More information may accrue over time

Step #3:Lay It All Out

Pareto Analysis

  • “80/20 rule”

  • Focus on numerical data

  • Use to identify

    which situations are most common

Mind Mapping

  • Free-form note taking

  • Any kind of information

  • Use to show how different facts relate to the problem

    and to each other

Look into Causes but Don’t Bog Down

  • Not all problems are “caused”

  • Not all causes can be corrected

    Ask for input – one person at a time.

The Un-Problem:Appreciative Inquiry

  • Systematic discovery of the best in people and organizations

  • Unconditional positive questions

  • Directed conversation and storytelling

  • What is working well?

  • How can we do more of that?

Step #4:Identify Your Options

  • What options do we have?

  • What has been done in other libraries?

  • In other disciplines?

  • How about something new?

Situation:Something’s Gone Wrong

  • Find and correct the changes that account for the fall-off in results.

Situation:Increased – or Changing – Expectations

  • Find new ways of operating.

Situation:The Double Whammy

  • Find ways to reengineer the system – correct and invent.

Situation:It Never Did Work Right

  • Find ways to overhaul – or completely rebuild.

Things That Can Limit Your Thinking

  • Searching for THE ONE RIGHT ANSWER

  • Not involving front line people

  • Looking inside the library only

  • Waiting for 100% agreement

  • Fear of embarrassment or failure

Be Sure to Include

  • Current approach

  • Something new

  • Something fun

Step #5:Evaluate Your Options

Check Sheet

SWOT: Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – ThreatsPMI:Plus – Minus - Interesting

Six Thinking Hats

Think Through Risks and Consequences

  • Reversible?

  • Pilot-able?

  • Timely?

  • Politically sensitive?

Special Challenges in Many Library Environments

  • Perfectionism

  • Catastrophizing

  • Mixed feelings about success

Step #6:Make Your Decision

Reality Check:Strategic Thinking

  • How might this decision change the library’s position or reputation?

  • Will it set the stage or define a pattern for future decisions?

  • Do library stakeholders need a heads-up?

  • Who will get credit if things turn out well?

Take Time to Write a Brief Summary of Your Process

Step #7:Move Forward

  • Communicate the decision/solution

  • Plan the implementation

  • Monitor results

  • Learn as you go

When Things Go Wrong

  • Work each problem

  • Re-prioritize if necessary

  • Maintain focus on desired outcomes

  • After a fair trial, change options

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